When rioters egged on by President Trump stormed the Capitol every week in the past, Sen. Tammy Duckworth wasn’t within the Senate chamber along with her colleagues. She was within the advanced’s underground tunnels, en path to the Senate flooring, the place she deliberate to talk in favor of certifying the Electoral Faculty ballots within the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
However that speech was to not be. Earlier than Duckworth might board the prepare to the ground, Capitol Police advised her that rioters had been urgent in opposition to the constructing doorways and requested that she discover a safe location to shelter in place. With the constructing on lockdown, the Illinois senator confronted additional security issues in contrast with a few of her colleagues; as a wheelchair consumer, it’s not as easy for her to evacuate.
Duckworth’s army coaching kicked in, and he or she remained calm whereas additionally maintaining in contact along with her colleague, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, to study what was taking place outdoors her lockdown location.
“As a soldier, I’ve been to locations the place I assist different folks combat for democracy,” Duckworth says. “And but right here I used to be, and I couldn’t do something about it within the second.”
In an interview with Fortune, Duckworth mirrored on what was going by means of her thoughts on Jan. 6—and what must occur subsequent. This interview has been edited and condensed.
Fortune: The place had been you throughout the assault on the Capitol? What was going by means of your thoughts?
Sen. Tammy Duckworth: I used to be on my solution to the ground—I used to be within the tunnels. I used to be supposed to talk at 2:50 p.m., they usually breached the Capitol proper round that very same time. Within the tunnels to catch the prepare, the Capitol Police mentioned I might proceed ahead if I needed to, however they would favor if I might take myself to a safe location. As an alternative of continuous on to the ground, I went to a safe place with my employees members.
I used to be fairly calm. I used to be speaking with Senator Klobuchar; I couldn’t consider the Capitol had been breached, that the Capitol Police could possibly be overwhelmed. It was unbelievable to me that folk who name themselves patriots would truly be attempting to overthrow the federal government and cease us from doing our constitutional responsibility to certify the ballots.
I used to be simply ready, ensuring management knew I used to be fantastic—to not fear about me. I all the time carry provisions in my backpack—water, aspirin, Tylenol, energy bars. I used to be okay to hunker down for a bit bit.
Lawmakers with army backgrounds appeared to stay calm all through the state of affairs. Did that coaching and expertise kick in for you?
Positively. I knew precisely what the Capitol Police had been going through and what wanted to be carried out. I knew the perfect factor we might do was to remain out of their approach—to be one much less issue for them to fret about.
I all the time know the place the again approach out of a room is. I all the time say, previous habits die onerous. And I knew that I might care for myself.
As soon as I knew that the ballots had been secured—that was one of many worries I had.
Had been you apprehensive concerning the accessibility of the Capitol advanced as somebody who makes use of a wheelchair?
Sure, that’s why I didn’t proceed on to the ground. I used to be given the choice, however I knew that if the Capitol was breached there’s just one approach out and in for me. There are a number of doorways into the ground of the Senate chambers, however I can solely actually go out and in of the doorways behind the dais. I can solely use the elevators. I knew that placing myself in that state of affairs was going to make issues harder for everybody throughout in the event that they needed to evacuate us, in order that’s why I selected as a substitute to shelter in place.
The general public has just lately realized extra about a number of the risks—like Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s panic buttons being ripped out. Has anything come to gentle for you?
They didn’t make it to my most important workplaces, though they did try to realize entry to my hideaway [private offices located near the Senate floor], as a result of it has a window to the surface. That window was shattered. Thank goodness it held in order that they by no means breached my hideaway. Had I been in there I might have been in actual jeopardy. It’s fairly badly cracked, and the within of my hideaway is crammed with shattered glass.
What does it really feel like so that you can see that injury?
For me, it’s frustration. As a result of I couldn’t do something about it. As a soldier, I’ve been to locations the place I assist different folks combat for democracy. And but right here I used to be, and I couldn’t do something about it within the second. And so it was actually irritating to me to see folks carrying the American flag—the identical flag I wore on my uniform after I went into fight—however they had been carrying the flag to assault our Capitol and to attempt to principally overthrow the Structure. And that imagery was way more hurtful than damaged glass in my hideaway. Glass may be changed, furnishings may be fastened.
There was a decided group inside that crowd that that had been systematic in how they reached the Capitol and had been properly coordinated.
What must occur subsequent?
We have to observe down everybody who was concerned, and there must be penalties for these actions. After which we have to evaluate the safety plans. The Capitol Police labored very, very onerous. And so they reacted the perfect they might, however they had been overwhelmed and principally let down by their management. We have to take a look at the leadership of the Capitol Police, after which we have to take a look at the agreements—the truth that [D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser] didn’t have the power to call up the D.C. National Guard, for instance.
And as for President Trump?
We’re about to go to impeachment. I believe he must face the results for his actions as properly. He must be barred from ever holding workplace once more.
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